Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Culture in Campobasso

(running out of alliteration-worthy titles here...)
After a final jog with Arianna in Ancona (during which we plucked ripe figs from a random tree in the neighborhood. Seriously, paradise much?) I made it to the train station with 4 (!!) minutes to spare to catch my train to Campobasso. Really good timing... And while my train ride first led along the coast in a series of picturesque moments, after I switched trains in Termoli (to the smallest train ever, consisting of 2 sole carriages! I was convinced there must have been a mistake and the real train would be arriving soon, but no, mini-train, me and 5 other voyagers were off together), the landscape became more diverse. The Molise region is known for 2 things: wine and olive oil, and that is what you could see between rolling hills and tiny villages: rows and rows of olive trees and vineyards.
Once I arrived in Campobasso, my couchsurfing hostess Maria was already waiting and took me to the Museo dei Misteri, an exhibition of the most peculiar tradition of Campobasso -every year in June, Campobassans organize a procession dedicated to different saints, in which bible scenes are represented by children - with the twist that the children are suspended on metal constructs that are several meters high and are carried through the streets by the strongest men in Campobasso, giving the impression of flying angels and saints. Seriously, it is hard to describe, but looks both impressive and terrifying - I'm not sure that I would let my six-year-old be strapped to a metal rod and lifted 3 meters high, but then again I am no real Campobassan. I was assured it was safe. (pictures from the Internet: and
In the evening I was allowed to take part in a typical Italian family gathering because it was Maria's sister-in-law's birthday, and tried hard to follow the conversation where 20 people argue about 3 different things until all of a sudden a question is directed at you - Come????
The next day Maria and her friend Carmen took me to Saepinum, one of the best-preserved Roman provincial towns in the area, which is literally in the middle of nowhere. There is no entrance fee (except for a random woman that collected a parking fee in a deserted parking lot), there are no swarms of tourists, and right next to the excavation sites are a couple of old-style farms with chicken, sheep, vineyards and a cow. This, however, makes Saepinum so charming - in addition to the fact that upto now less than 50% of the area has been excavated because, as Carmen explained, this region of Italy has way too much history and way too little funds. It was definitely worth my visit just to rekindle the Latin-nerd in me, remind myself of the Romans' ingenuousness, and to see the gorgeous Molise countryside with mountains looming in the distance and afternoon sunlight filtering through pine trees. Salve!

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